American politics is like walking along the precipice of insanity with a stiff breeze blowing. No wonder why people hate it so much. Last fall, Trump was lambasted by the left and the media for refusing to admit he would acknowledge the election results. Now, it is the left and Green Party standard bearer Dr. Jill Stein demanding a recount in Wisconsin, with the possibility of additional recounts in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Michigan. It makes you want to shake your head at the ridiculousness of it all. What’s lost in the all the purely political motives is whether a recount is actually not all that bad of an idea.
Dispensing with the Nonsense: Part One – Donald Trump
First, let’s get the trivial stuff out of the way. Donald Trump hopped on this train early with rhetoric about a “rigged election.” It was a focus in the debates, including the iconic “I will keep you in suspense” line. He claimed that he would accept a clear election result, and there was won. It helped that he benefited from that result, so the world will never know what Donald Trump would have done had a couple of states swung in the other direction. Although it is a touch hypocritical to lambast Stein’s efforts considering the amount of red meat on this subject he tossed to his supporters during rallies.
Dispensing with the Nonsense: Part Two – Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton, in one debate, called Mr. Trump’s answer about not accepting the election results “horrifying,” and accused him of “talking down our democracy.”
She went on after the debate to say:
“It was horrifying what he said. We are a country based on laws. And we’ve had hot, contested elections going back to the very beginning, but one of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our elections. America has free and fair elections. “Somebody wins and somebody loses. So what he said tonight is part of his whole effort to blame somebody else for his campaign.”
Harsh words, and maybe deservedly so. In that spirit, there’s no way she would …??? I’m not going to finish that statement. On November 26th, it was reported by NPR that the Clinton campaign would participate in the recount initiatives. Marc Erik Elias wrote that “regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented” in any recount proceedings. Yeah, sure.
At least Donald Trump was honest about his unwillingness to accept the result without qualification. Hillary should have let this one play out and not allowed her campaign to get involved. There is very little upside for her and a lot of downside, especially at a time when Trump has toned down the “lock her up” rhetoric.
And Introducing … Jill Stein
Many Americans have not even heard her name. Yes, she was actually a candidate for president, garnering around one million votes in the 2016 election. Odds are, by the time this Wisconsin recount comes to a close, you will have at least heard or seen her name. And that is the point.
This has nothing to do with electoral fairness or checking to ensure there was no outside influence in our voting process. It has everything to do with two things: dominating the media cycle during the transition during an absence of any progressive leadership and using a fundraising page on her website to collect the names and email addresses of tens of thousands of potential supporters for a future run.
Does that sound cynical? It probably does, but go ahead and try to convince me I’m wrong. Before you do, read Dr. Stein’s own words in a recent interview:
“Let me be very clear: We do not have evidence of fraud. We do not have smoking guns. What we do have is an election that was surrounded by hacking.”
What the REAL Story Is…
It’s all about publicity, and you know what? It’s working. According to FOX News, she is getting twelve times the coverage from the major news networks than she did during her campaign. She’s become a liberal crusader and a darling in the minds of those still in the grieving process over Clinton’s loss and desperate to do something about it. She’s is praying on the fears about Trump and the anger over Clinton, and Hillary supporters are eating it up with a soup ladle.
The problem is, she isn’t doing this to benefit Clinton. It’s one of left-leaning Slate.com seven reasons why Democrats shouldn’t contribute to this. My favorite one is:
A recount wouldn’t necessarily disprove hacking anyway. Despite his skepticism, Halderman said nobody will know whether a cyberattack changed the result of the race unless there is a recount. But that’s not necessarily true. In Pennsylvania, for example, most machines don’t have paper ballots and if the past is any guide the recount could simply mean re-scanning the machine results, notes the Washington Post.
The Real Question Surrounding a Recount
Jill Stein’s push towards a recount is politically motivated, but not a terrible idea. It’s the execution of it that is problematic. There is no evidence suggesting that compromised voting machines had any influence on the outcome of the presidential election. For that reason, focusing on one state (or three if MI and PA end up being included) makes no sense.
A recount should not be alarming to any Americans. I agree with Bernie Sanders that it “is not a big deal.” In fact, if anything, it’s practical way to ease doubts that have seeped into the mindset of the American people about the safeguards to our election security. There should be (and in some states, already are) audits done to ensure voting integrity. These should be made more widespread and transparent.
With all of the unfounded allegations of Russian hacking, dead people on voting rolls, and illegal immigrants casting ballots, audits done by all fifty states on at least a portion of their returns may just prove to the American public how much integrity the process has or does not have.
Analog Voting in a Digital Age
This is why I hate electronic voting machines. I know in the digital age, it is all the rage. But some things need to be safeguarded, and the voting process is one of them. That means paper ballots that can be referred to if discrepancies are noticed. In Connecticut, we bubble in our choices and that is read by a machine that tabulates the votes. Fast counting and a paper backup: perfect. It also makes a hand recount possible should the need ever arise.
Most of all, it removes the possibility of conspiracy theories and hacking allegation. Yes, while there may be dead people on the rolls, we also show identification at the polling place. I may have my issues with the state I live in, but I have full faith in our voting.
Restoring American Faith in Elections
And that is what America needs more than anything: faith in our system. We need to understand the Electoral College and why we have it. Our citizens must know that their votes are counted accurately. Americans deserve to know that our election process is secure and unimpeachable. Jill Stein’s recount effort does not do any of this, but doesn’t hurt either. If tens of thousands of Americans want to fund her efforts, let them.
But what we really need is a national effort to assure the nation that our elections are fair and accurate, outside of sour grapes or a last-ditch effort to sway an election. Her demands for recounts are only a small step in that direction.